"No Problems"

Can you trademark something that you did not create? Disney answers in the affirmative. The media giant trademarked the phrase, “Hakuna Matata” after the epic success of The Lion King (1994). Now, activists are accusing Disney of appropriation and flat-out robbery.


“Disney can’t be allowed to trademark something that it didn’t invent,” Shelton Mpala says. The activist created a petition that calls for the entertainment empire to surrender its trademark rights when it comes to “Hakuna Matata” since, after all, the phrase has its origins in Swahili, which was spoken centuries before The Lion King was ever a concept.

Fans of the film may remember Pumbaa and Timon creating a song revolving the saying, which means “No Problems” in Swahili. Timon and Pumbaa’s tune advocated the importance of living a care-free life sans stringent rules.

Disney is well on its way to debuting the 2019 remake of The Lion King, starring Beyonce and Donald Glover, but not without opposition from Mpala and upwards of 500,000 petition signers who agree with the activist.

“These big companies located in the north are taking advantage of cultural expressions and lifestyles and cultural goods coming from Africa,” Professor Kimani Njogu of Kenya says. “They know very well that this expression is really the people’s property, created by people, popularised by people.” Njogu also adds that the recording group, Them Mushrooms made “Hakuna Matata” a thing back in 1982. Disney, according to the educator, has only used its power and influence to market off the saying.

It would certainly be interesting to see the reaction if an American phrase were trademarked by a foreign country. Stay tuned to see if Disney falls back on its trademark of “Hakuna Matata.”



Sarie is a writer and editor for BCK's Los Angeles division. She also shares stories on Medium that are meant to encourage thought and discussion. You can catch her outside enjoying nature and classical literature. Pop culture is pretty fun, too!

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